Environment Minister Frank Pearl told Reuters the government was planning to raise the standards for companies using a “carrot and stick” method in an effort to clamp down on regulation violations by civilian and native groups.
“The consequences should really have an impact,” Pearl told the news service.
“The fines should no longer be a joke – the fines and sanctions are sometimes paid by companies out of petty cash. The fine has to hurt.”
The country, once a hotbed of rebel activity, went on the offensive with the help of the US to denounce the groups and make mining and exploration safer.
It has since attracted millions in foreign direct investments – in fact, Colombia received nearly $15 billion last year, according to statistics.
Conversely with the uptick in mining and oil sector environmental permits for companies seeking the security and financial advantages of the Andean nation, many have also been left waiting for long periods to be issued those permits.
“We have very weak institutions today,” Pearl told Reuters.
“It’s a newly created ministry ... with a very small budget.
“We don’t have the resources or economics, neither human nor technological, nor in terms of organizational culture and processes to live up to the task we have today … there is a gap.”
Colombia is currently the largest coal producer in the Latin American region, with major players such as Glencore, Drummond and Cerrejon but Pearl said he wanted to give “more teeth” to the rules to curb environmental abuses.
“Those people who want to blackmail private companies and blackmail the government can just forget it,” he was quoted by the news service as saying.
He said the country had a great opportunity he felt should be taken advantage of in the right ways.
“The investors that are spooked by environmental issues are the investors we don’t want to have,” Pearl said.
“The investors we want are the sophisticated companies that understand environmental issues are a priority.”